A midsummer Festival of Music, Drama, Poetry, Dance and the Visual Arts.
St Magnus International Festival is Orkney's annual celebration of the arts. Founded in 1977 by Orkney's distinguished resident composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, the Festival has grown from small beginnings into one of Britain's most highly regarded and adventurous arts events.
The unique combination of world-class performance, community participation of the highest quality and the magic of Orkney at midsummer attracts audiences from throughout Britain and further afield; many return year after year.
Though musical events are at the heart of the artistic programme, the Festival also encompasses drama, dance, literature and the visual arts.
Over the years, numerous distinguished artists have appeared at the Festival - including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Andre Previn, Julian Bream, Imogen Cooper, Georgy Pauk, Evelyn Glennie, John Harle, Joanna MacGregor, Steven Isserlis, John Lill, Natalie Clein and Nicola Benedetti.
Visiting orchestras and ensembles have included the Royal Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, London Sinfonietta, the Hebrides Ensemble, Nash Ensemble, Scottish Ensemble, and Psappha.
Through education and community projects the Festival has built up active participation by adults and children from all parts of Orkney. Over the years, numerous children's operas, music-theatre pieces and song cycles by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and other composers have been premiered by Orkney children. Education projects are often devised in collaboration with visiting orchestras, ensembles and artists.
The Festival Chorus attracts around 140 singers from all parts of Orkney. Works performed in recent years include: Kodaly's Psalmus Hungaricus (with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra), HMS Pinafore (concert performance with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra), Dvorak's Te Deum and Haydn's Te Deum (both with the BBC Philharmonic) and Beethoven's Mass in C. In 2011 the Festival Chorus performed Mozart's Requiem with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, under the baton of Martyn Brabbins, and in 2012 Michael Tippett's oratorio "A Child of Our Time" with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
Large-scale community drama productions feature frequently: in 2002 and 2007 plays by Alan Plater, were written specially for, and premiered at, the Festival and subsequently performed with great success at the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2003 an Orkney production of As You Like It toured to Gotland, Sweden, after its Festival performances in Orkney. 2011 saw a community production of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and in 2010 the Festival staged an adaptation of Dylan Thomas's "The Doctor and the Devils" - the story of the infamous Edinburgh murderers, Burke and Hare. 2013 brought Long Strides, a cinematic-style dramatic production celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Jon Rae. This community drama was written by Pamela Beasant, Director of the Orkney Writers' Course.
FESTIVAL ON TOUR
Since 2000, the Festival on Tour project has seen visiting artists and ensembles tour to Orkney's remote outer islands, giving workshops and performances for the island schools and communities. Performers visiting the outer isles have included members of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic and the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Scottish Ensemble and Walk the Plank ship-based theatre.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT COURSES for conductors and composers
Three courses, one festival. The Orkney Conductor's Course and the St Magnus Composers' Course run for ten days against the spectacular backdrop of Orkney at midsummer. At the heart of these two exceptional opportunities for professional development is the St Magnus Festival, enabling participants to work with professional performers, conductors and composers at the highest level.
In addition to the musical courses, the Festival also runs the Orkney Writers' Course, which draws on the wealth of literary tradition in Orkney and dovetails with the Festival's poetry events.
All three courses culminate in Festival performances, giving participants the opportunity to showcase the work and skills which they have developed during their stay in Orkney.
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